Ruling Explains the Authority of Appointed Judges in California Family Law Matters

In some divorce matters, the parties will stipulate to certain conditions. For example, they can agree that a specific Judge will decide matters throughout the proceeding. In such instances, the scope of the Judge’s authority may not be immediately clear. This was illustrated recently in a California case in which the wife objected to the Judge’s issuance of a domestic violence restraining order. If you wish to seek a divorce and you have questions regarding how domestic violence allegations may impact your proceeding, it is advisable to confer with a skilled San Diego divorce lawyer to evaluate your rights.

The Historical Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife were married for 39 years when the wife sought a divorce. The parties then stipulated to the appointment of a specific temporary Judge. Subsequently, the husband asked the Judge to issue a domestic violence restraining order preventing the wife from contacting him and his girlfriend or entering their residence. The Judge granted the requested and issued an order she deemed a non-CLETs (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) domestic violence order. Domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) are reported to law enforcement through this system. The wife appealed, arguing that the Judge exceeded the scope of her authority in issuing the order.

Authority of Appointed Judges

The Court of Appeal rejected the wife’s argument and concluded that the Judge did not surpass the scope of her appointment in issuing the domestic violence restraining order. Under California law, when a temporary Judge is appointed to a specific case, the Judge has the power to act until a final determination is issued in the proceeding. In evaluating whether a temporary Judge has the authority to resolve a particular issue, the Courts will evaluate whether the issue is directly derived from the “cause” they were originally tasked with hearing or are ancillary to the cause. For example, a motion to reconsider or vacate is directly related, while an ancillary matter relies on a separate record.

In the subject case, the wife argued that the cause at issue was the dissolution of the marriage, and therefore, the domestic violence restraining order is ancillary to the cause, as it is a separate action that relies on its own record and whose outcome did not affect the final resolution of the dissolution action. The Court disagreed, noting that the parties agreed that the Judge had the authority to try the “above matter” and finding that the domestic violence issue fell within that scope. The Court did find that the Judge erred in stating that the order was a non-CLETS order. Thus, it remanded the matter to allow the Judge to enter a proper order.

Meet with a Seasoned California Family Law Attorney

Divorce proceedings are often contentious, but if the parties can agree on certain issues, it can lead to a more efficient resolution. If you or your spouse want to end your marriage, it is smart to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. The seasoned San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can help you strive to protect your interests in divorce proceedings, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.






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